Male Fruit Flies Sexually Harass Females Until they Can’t Reproduce

posted: 06/29/15
by: Danny Clemens
Mating pair of Drosophila serrata.
Antoine Morin

Sexual harassment isn't just a problem for humans. According to a new study, male fruit flies habitually overwhelm females with sexual attention -- to the point that it hinders mating activities.

The joint study between Canadian and Australian researchers followed 13 generations of fruit flies, all grown in a controlled laboratory environment.

Some genes that are considered functionally beneficial turned out to be a detriment to reproduction: the genes, such as the one that boosts fertility, made the females too attractive to males.

Blinded by lust, the hot-to-trot males wouldn't stop harassing the fertile female flies, to the point that the females "spent most of the time fending off male suitors rather than actually laying eggs," according to study author Steve Chenoweth of The University of Queensland.

"The end result was that these supposedly 'superior' genes could not be passed on to the next generation," he explains.

When Chenoweth and his colleagues manipulated the ratio of males to females in an attempt to decrease harassment, the desirable genes were more common in offspring. Under natural conditions, however, desirable genes disappeared as male harassment continued unabated.

Chenoweth's research is published in the latest edition of the journal Current Biology

Click here for more information from The University of Queensland

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